Our cat died. George, the healthy six year old. Not Sam, the 19 year old who has been sick for two years. It was surprising and gut-twistingly terrible. It was our first experience euthanizing a pet and I’m realizing that, even though Olive’s disappearance and Alice’s sudden death in our arms were painful, this was a whole other mashup of emotion. To choose it and then second guess it and then choose it again, over and over, through tears.
It’s hard to feel sad in a world that keeps spinning. I have to parent and work and care for our other pets. But I keep thinking about how fucked up it is that George is buried out there.
His illness was a mystery. He just lost function of his rear legs and then his front legs. We did tests and more tests and it remained a mystery. Some things are just that way. We don’t get to know and we have to sink our teeth into only air.
My kids’ wholesome approach to death is the levity I need. It’s all quite factual and effortlessly emotional. Like, they just feel what they feel whenever they feel like it. Ruby cried and pressed her face into George as he was dying. Margot sat in a chair on the other side of the room with a crescent moon of tears pooled at the base of her eyes, staring at him so intently I believed her gaze was telepathic.
He died on Saturday morning and we spent the weekend at home. Doing all the things we do, without George wandering around underfoot. Andy just finished up my new studio space and I’m busily working around his sawdust to get ready for the holidays. Margot is in a play at our community theater and her rehearsal schedule is a part time job. Ruby’s part time job is losing one of every sock pair in the house and writing true stories about her life so far. My parents just moved to town! It’s been talk for years and it happened. They’re here for the rest of all of it.
I tucked the garden in just in time and managed to wait until the first good snow to rake up the leaves. It seems to happen that way so often that it cannot be a mistake. I always say, “Ah I wish I’d raked last Saturday!” as inches of precipitation create a matted foliole fortress that weighs 197 pounds per square foot. I realized on Saturday, that I like it. The effort, the task of turning over bricks of cold leaves full of worms, the riskiness of maybe missing it all together until next Spring when everything underneath has turned to dirt.
Heaving wet leaves around on a tarp will definitely be part of my Farm Olympics.
I’m trying to resist this wish I have to pump the breaks on life. Because it feels pointless and cliché: there is no pause button and no fast-forward. There is only this, now. Time’s passing has always been the same and always will be. Time feels like it crawls by or flies by…but it doesn’t. It’s our perception that creates the reality. There are certain things in my life that make time feel like a good and robust pace. I am pushing my energy there: getting outside, doing absolutely nothing but being with and listening to my kids, exercising every single day, calling my mom, making art, doing work I am proud of, dating my husband….
And time feels good in the kitchen. There’s an instinctive and forgiving rhythm. I’ve been baking a lot of bread lately. Equal parts science and art, I am knee-deep and smiling in my sourdough obsession. Like all things in the kitchen, my best loaves happen when I am in a peaceful and loving headspace. I’ve made a few loaves with anxiety and hurry — punching down as I’m running out the door, shoving the dough in the fridge as I’ve run out of time in the day….it all makes bread that we eat but the very best bread happens when I give it a bit of space. It doesn’t take much. Just a deep breath and a gentle touch. Indeed, even on the most busy day I can find that grace and gratitude. And, honestly, I need these slow rituals that ground me against the voltage of our increasingly broken world.
On a cooking show Ruby and I were watching the other night a chef said, “That’s my heart on the plate there. I can’t hide anything.”